Daniel Starkman grew up in the Bay Area, and he was like all his friends. He was taught to take pride in being Jewish, while living in a world that was full of anti-Semitism. Zionism gave him a sense of belonging. It was an integral part of his life, and when he came of age, he didn’t hesitate to enroll in the IDF. He was thrilled to be able to defend Israel and to participate in taking back the land that was rightfully theirs.
Lapidos Rivkin was from Tel Aviv. His parents came to Israel as Ashkenazi Jewish settlers before he was born. He was ultra nationalist and well versed in the Talmud, which served as his justification for all of his actions. To understand this, we need to look at a few excerpts from the Talmud:
In the book of Schulchan Aruch, Choszen Hamiszpat, chapter 348 it is written “All property of other nations belongs to the Jewish nation, which, consequently, is entitled to seize upon it without any scruples.” From the book of Baba Necia 114, verse 6, “The Jews are human beings, but the nations of the world are not human beings but beasts.” Also, in the book of Tosefta. Aboda Zara B, verse 5, “If a goy kills a goy or a Jew, he is responsible; but if a Jew kills a goy, he is not responsible.” (a goy is a non-Jew).
Daniel’s first assignment as a private in 2006 was in Hebron, in an area where there were many Jewish settlers and also Palestinians residing. It was a common thing to see the Jewish kids throwing rocks at the Palestinian kids or spitting on them and cursing them. They were encouraged by their parents, who would also spit on them and curse them. Daniel became used to spitting on Palestinians too. He had learned to hate them. He thought about it this way; he wasn’t on a special force to kill terrorists, so he couldn’t kill anyone, but he could humiliate Palestinians by spitting on them. He could scare them too, because the soldiers had all the power. It was a routine thing to cock their weapon “chick-chick” and point it at Palestinians, even little kids. He used to laugh with his buddies at how scared they were. It was cool.
Fast forward to 2019, Daniel Starkman had put himself fully into his military career and worked his way up to the rank of Sergeant. He was now stationed at Ramallah on the West Bank and Lapidos Rivkin was Daniel’s direct superior, as First Sergeant.
The soldiers were accustomed to Palestinian boys throwing rocks, and they used it as reason to arrest them, sometimes with little or no proof that they were the same boys that threw the rocks. One day Daniel and Lapidos were sitting in the back of a Jeep with a 5-year-old kid they had caught throwing rocks, they were bringing him into the Territories. So, he had been picked up and slapped around, then taken into the back of Jeep.
The kid was crying and trembling with fear, pleading with the soldiers not to harm him, when Lapidos yelled at him “Hey snot-nose, don’t cry!” The man started smiling at him so finally the kid smiled back, and then suddenly – wham! He landed a big a punch in the kid’s belly. Daniel was a bit taken aback, because even if he hated them, still, he was just a kid, and the punch would have been hard even for a strong adult. He was wondering why his comrade had done that when he got the answer. “How dare you laugh at me you little piece of shit!” Lapidos sneered with hate.
A few days later, on Friday January 18th, thousands of Palestinians were gathered at the Gaza Strip’s Israeli border for a demonstration, as they did weekly, burning tires and hurling stones at Israeli soldiers.
Daniel and Lapidos got word that three teenage boys were throwing rocks at Israeli cars near Route 60, the West Bank’s main north-south road, so they went to take care of it.
Upon arriving on the scene, Lapidos scowled, “These little bastards, I’m sick of their shit. This time, there will be three less terrorists to worry about. Let’s give ‘em lead! Shoot to kill!”
Daniel was fighting an internal battle. His superior had given an order. He had to obey, and one side of his mind was telling him that it was right to kill them, that it was justified. Throwing rocks at vehicles had indeed resulted in deaths sometimes. Even just a few days earlier, on the northern West Bank settlement of Rehelim, a 16-year-old Israeli youth had been charged with manslaughter for aggravated stone throwing at a moving vehicle. The stone throwing had resulted in the death of a 47-year-old Palestinian mother of eight children. So, wasn’t it right to defend ourselves and stop these teenagers before they kill someone? Meanwhile, his conscience was telling him that he shouldn’t shoot to kill, and he couldn’t understand why he felt uncomfortable at the idea of killing them.
“Can’t we just wound them and take them in?” Daniel dared to ask, but he was sure of the answer even before it came.
“These scumbags don’t deserve to live! And don’t you ever take sides with them. Are you a coward? A traitor? Come on, show your colors and defend your country!”
They shot at the 3 boys and hit 2 of them, but Daniel didn’t aim to kill. As he came up to the boy he had shot as he was lying on the ground, writhing in pain, their eyes met and something cracked inside of him. He was sure that what he had done was wrong. They took the boy for medical assistance, but he didn’t survive. Daniel couldn’t sleep that night, and his sleep was troubled every night from then on. He had started to question his role as a soldier.
He decided to quit the army, and he went on to bear witness to everything he had seen and done during his time in the IDF. He wasn’t alone. Other soldiers also dared to testify about the crimes they had committed to an association called “Breaking the Silence”.
This story is fiction inspired by the real testimonies of IDF Soldiers and a real event that occurred on the West Bank in January 2019. Source: Times of Israel.com